Just like every writer writes differently, every writer edits differently as well. Some are fortune enough to be able to have a professional editor, while others (like me) are forced to edit themselves. Starving writers can’t afford such luxuries. I can’t say that I mind too much. I’ve written five novels now and am at the end of editing my fifth. Through this process, I’ve discovered that a great deal of editing for me involves more writing.
When people ask me what I mean by editing, I tell them editing is a lot like ironing. Say you have a shirt and you want to wear it out for a night on the town. Problem is, the shirt needs ironing, BAD. So you run a hot iron over it then hold it up. It looks better, but it’s still got wrinkles. Again, you put it back on the ironing board and take another pass at it. After this second ironing, it looks better, but there’s still the smallest of wrinkles left. One last time you run the iron over the shirt. Now it looks good enough to wear out. Are there still wrinkles? Yes, but they’re small enough that they only bother you. This is the same with editing a book, it’s smoothing out the wrinkles. It’s adding a little starch here to bulk it up, adding a little water there to dilute it out. Hopefully in the end, you have a unwrinkled shirt as well as a typo free and well written and crafted book.
How do I edit? Well, after I wrote the initial draft of each of my novels, I went back and re-read it on paper making notes of things that needed changes. I know, I know, I’m old school. I like reading the words on paper and making handwritten corrections/changes. It just feels more real to me. As I go, I enter those changes in and reprint out the book when I’m done. I did this three times.
When I finished, I moved on and wrote book two. After I completed the first draft, I did three paper editing passes. I went on to do the same for all five books in the series. After I finished, I went back to book one and started all over again ….
Why did I start again? Well, I’d been writing every day for over two years. Simply said, I was a much better writer at that point in my life than I was when I first wrote and edited book one. Book one took the most re-editing. Again you ask why. Easy, when I wrote book one, I didn’t know how book five would end. I wrote my books to specifically build on one another. After you read each book, I want you to be able to go back and reread the previous books and see them with a whole new pair of eyes. Simple things like a person going off to make a phone call, things that seem meaningless at the time, after you read another book in the series and go back to re-read the previous books, well, all of a sudden you’ll know why they walked out to make that phone call and exactly who they were talking to. It will completely change your view of things. If you write like this, you can’t publish each book as they are completed. You have to finish the whole series and then go back. That’s what I did.
Re-editing the first book meant three more passes through it. When I completed that, I formatted the book and emailed it to my Kindle. I then opened the document on my kindle and let my Kindle read it back to me with the text to speech feature. Sound like a waste of time?? Yeah, that’s what I’ve heard from a lot of writers, and I’m here to tell you those people are WRONG!! You want to hear a typo your eye has been skipping over? Have that computer voice read it back to you. Want to hear a word that is repeated every couple of sentences that you just never realized? Have a computer voice read it back to you. In the document, you can highlight words, make notes, bookmark pages. It’s great. I listen, make notes, then sit down in front of my laptop and enter the changes. I do this three times. By the end of that, you’ve got a presentable book you’re not embarrassed to publish.
So two and half years later, here I am finishing listening to my fifth and final book in the series for the third time on my kindle. I’m so close to finishing I can taste it!!